Gathering Student Feedback & Midterm CATALyst

You may be interested in finding out how students are experiencing your course before your end-of-semester evaluations. The FDC provides a consultation service called the Midterm CATALyst or you may choose to conduct a midterm assessment on your own.

You may also find it useful to conduct less formalized, more regular check-in’s by using Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs). These techniques can help you determine how much students are learning without the burden of additional grading.

Midterm CATALyst | Gathering Student Feedback On Your Own

Midterm CATALyst

The Classroom Assessment for Teaching And Learning, or CATALyst Process, is a consultation service provided by the FDC to all UMBC faculty and instructors upon your request. The process helps you gather student feedback about a course while it is still in progress. That way, you have the opportunity to intervene, if necessary, to address any smaller issues before they become end-of-semester problems. The CATALyst process can help you determine where to focus your energies to best support your students’ learning. Working with the FDC allows students to know that their feedback is anonymous and allows you to avail yourself of FDC experience and expertise in interpreting the feedback. The CATALyst is a completely voluntary, formative and confidential process.

What is the CATALyst Process?

To be effective, the CATALyst should be conducted at midterm, sometime between the fifth and ninth week of the semester. That way, there is still enough time for you to make changes if you wish. The CATALyst process can be done in both face-to-face and online classes. Once you request a CATALyst, we will reach out to start the process:

CATALysts in Face-to-Face Classes

  • A FDC consultant contacts you to answer questions and arrange for a class meeting.
  • On the chosen day, we arrive at the beginning of class. You should plan to call the class to order, introduce the consultant, and let students know that you will leave the room and return after the feedback process.
  • Over the next 15-20 minutes, we will lead the students as they work in small groups to answer questions about what is working well in the class and what suggestions they have, if any.
  • When the assessment is over, we will let you know to return to finish teaching class.
  • We will analyze the data and compile a report for you.
  • We will meet with you in a post-CATALyst consultation to discuss the students’ feedback and ways to address any issues that may have arisen. We always recommend that you close the loop with students about what they have said. We can help you think through ways to respond to students’ feedback and talk transparently with students about your choices.

CATALysts in Online Classes

  • An FDC consultant contacts you to answer questions and determine whether we will visit a synchronous class to administer the survey or provide you with a message and survey link to share with students via email or a Blackboard announcement.
  • We will create a Google form to collect student feedback based on your selection of feedback options:
    • For courses of 50 or fewer students, we can provide our two usual open-ended questions: What do you like about this course and/or your instructor’s teaching of it, and What suggestions do you have for improvement?
    • For all courses, we can provide a list of Likert-scale questions and an open comment box. Routine questions include:
      • Online materials are easy to access. Rank agreement 1-4
      • Instructor expectations on assignments are clear. Rank agreement 1-4
      • Instructor expectations for exams are clear. Rank agreement 1-4
      • Resources available are sufficient for my needs. Rank agreement 1-4
      • Instructor is approachable. Rank agreement 1-4
      • Comment box
  • We will then compile students’ responses and organize them by themes in a report for you.
  • We will meet with you in a post-CATALyst consultation to discuss the students’ feedback and ways to address any issues that may have arisen. We always recommend that you close the loop with students about what they have said. We can help you think through ways to respond to students’ feedback and talk transparently with students about your choices.

A midterm classroom assessment can catalyze…

  • New ways of thinking about a course based on real evidence of student perceptions
  • Improved rapport with students who appreciate being asked for their opinions
  • Reflection on teaching through discussion of student feedback with an experienced teaching consultant
  • Changes in students’ perspectives of their role in the classroom through peer-to-peer discussion

To schedule a CATALyst, complete the CATALyst request form. PLEASE NOTE: During Spring 2022, we will only offer online CATALysts (no paper CATALysts) due to COVID. To find out more, contact us.

The CATALyst process is entirely confidential, for both you and your students. All FDC consultations are non-evaluative and aimed at supporting you to achieve your objectives. No consultation services provided to faculty are used by administrators or committees in making personnel decisions.

Gathering Student Feedback on Your Own

If you choose to conduct a midterm survey on your own, you may find the following information helpful. These surveys usually consist of a short list of questions, often open-ended, that focus on how students are learning in your class, not on their impressions of your performance. This focus helps in two ways. Not only do students think more about the substantive part of the class rather just what they find entertaining, they may also realize the role they have in their own learning.

Some common questions to ask students on mid-term feedback forms are:

  • Do you typically know what you are expected to do to prepare for and participate in this class? If not, please explain why not.
  • What aspects of this course and your instructor’s teaching help you learn best?
  • What specific advice would you give to help your instructor improve your learning in this course?
  • What steps could you take to improve your own learning in this course?

The last question is important because it reinforces the idea that your students, too, need to take responsibility for their learning.

The final step in gathering midterm feedback is to talk with your students about what you learned. Which of their suggestions can you incorporate into the class now? Which ones are not appropriate to incorporate and why? Showing students that you care about and are responsive to their perceived needs can be a powerful motivator for them. And in the process you receive feedback that can help you make mid-term changes to create a more positive class environment for student learning.

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